All probes vs DOH 'can continue,' Palace says after Duterte scores COA

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 17 2021 03:00 PM | Updated as of Aug 17 2021 03:49 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte confers with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III during a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) at the Presidential Guest House in Panacan, Davao City on Aug. 10, 2020.
President Rodrigo Duterte confers with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III during a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) at the Presidential Guest House in Panacan, Davao City on Aug. 10, 2020. Joey Dalumpines, Presidential Photo/File 


MANILA — All inquiries into the Department of Health can continue, despite President Rodrigo Duterte's tirades against the Commission on Audit for flagging alleged deficiencies in the agency's use of some P67 billion in COVID-19 funds, Malacañang said on Tuesday. 

Duterte on Monday said it was "impossible" to steal P67 billion from public coffers. He told COA, an independent body, to refrain from releasing its yearly reports, which he said Cabinet officials should ignore

"All probes can continue," the President's spokesman Harry Roque said, when asked if Duterte was precluding investigations into the report. 

"The President has no power to prevent the House nor the Senate from investigating. The President cannot control the Ombudsman if it can investigate," he said in a press briefing. 

The constitution also protects the independence of COA "from appointment, to tenure, to fiscal autonomy," said Roque, a lawyer. 

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Protocol dictates agencies should be given a chance to answer COA’s initial observations before a final report is issued. But by releasing its initial observations on the DOH, auditors "unnecessarily" alarmed the public, Roque said. 

"Siguro ang gustong mangyari ni Presidente, ‘wag muna isapubliko ang preliminary observations na hindi pa naman nasasagot ng mga ahensya," he said. 

(Perhaps what the President wants is for the preliminary observations not to get publicized, while agencies have yet to answer.)

"I don’t think he made any threats. He expressed frustration," Roque added.

Duterte in 2019 talked about kidnapping and torturing government auditors. The year before, he "joked" an auditor in Ilocos Norte should be pushed down the stairs so he would not be able to report on the local government's transactions. 
 
"That’s just his style," Roque said of the President's remarks. "You can’t teach an old horse new tricks, and people have accepted him for how he is."

"That's why he was elected, despite the fact na alam natin kung paano talaga ang kaniyang asta (that we know how he acts)," the official continued. 
 
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